Interplayers theater group rescued by Dickers

The husband-and-wife team who acquired Spokane’s Bing Crosby Theater earlier this year has taken on one more Spokane arts group: Patty and Jerry Dicker said Friday they’ve bought out the mortgage on the building used by Spokane Interplayers Ensemble.

The move will allow Spokane’s only professional live theater company to lease back its building and continue planning its future seasons, said Jerry Dicker.

Dicker said his company, GVD Commercial Properties, has taken over mortgage payments on the 1920s-vintage Interplayers building, at 174 S. Howard St.

Dicker said his interest in helping Interplayers followed the lead of his wife, a one-time board member and occasional volunteer with the company.

“It was Patty who brought my attention to Interplayers and asked if we could help it succeed,” Dicker said.

Like many nonprofit arts groups, the theater has struggled financially in recent years. Most recently, managers were trying to find money to repair a leaking roof and would have struggled to foot that bill if the Dickers hadn’t come along, said Pamela Brown, Interplayers’ executive director.

Over the past seven years, the theater’s board has tried to sell the building with the idea of leasing back the space to reduce the nonprofit’s debt.

But when the recession hit, serious potential buyers became scarce, Brown said.

She declined to lay out the specifics of the GVD Commercial deal, saying only that Dicker’s company was taking over a refinanced mortgage the board had signed with Wheatland Bank.

John Kapelac, a former Spokane businessman who recently finished three terms on Interplayers’ board of directors, said a 2011 appraisal estimated the building was worth $650,000.

The Wheatland Bank mortgage, when he left the board this year, was roughly $360,000.

Dicker deflected attention on his or his wife’s role in the deal, suggesting the community should focus on the efforts of the theater to keep itself going.

“It will be their job to sustain and grow the theater,” he said, adding that the only connection to the purchase of the Bing was the belief that both buildings are good for downtown and the community.

“We’re doing this for the benefit of the community. We want a vibrant downtown and we feel the arts – visual and performing arts – are a vital part of a dynamic city,” he said.

The theater company was the brainchild of husband-and-wife actors Bob and Joan Welch, who launched it in 1981. The name will be changed in a rebranding this year to Interplayers Theater, Brown said.

The Welches retired in 2001, and Bob Welch died in 2006. Joan Welch currently has no hand in the theater.

Brown said the board and staff will focus on making the building busier during the day and between productions. Some initial plans are to offer acting and music classes, along with youth camps and workshops.

Having the building debt cleared up by the Dickers changes everything, she added, allowing the theater to take on new ways to engage supporters and work with other businesses in new partnerships.

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